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Jacques Pellarin Trio: Karenita

Bruce Lindsay By

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Karenita is the second album from the Jacques Pellarin Trio, following 2009's self-produced The Sound Of Philadelphia. It's a charming collection of lively, optimistic and happy tunes, played with exceptional style by this French ensemble; a real gem of an album that constantly surprises and delights.

The album sleeve gives a clear and welcoming indication of the Trio's musical approach, thanks to some charming artwork from Lucas Pellarin. The cover illustration features the trio's members as young boys lying on a sandy beach, their instruments by their sides, idly dreaming of a life on the high seas. The music, too, is characterized by a child-like joy, as well as by extremely high quality musicianship.

The trio combines influences from jazz, Latin and folk music, as well as leader/composer Jacques Pellarin's own classical background. Such is the extensive nature of these influences that the trio is constantly able to create unusual combinations of styles that result in some engagingly eclectic pieces of music.

Pellarin plays the Bayan accordion, an instrument characterized by a range of over five octaves. He's an exceptionally accomplished player, able to make full use of this range to create a full, vibrant sound. The bass tones are particularly rich, enabling Pellarin to deliver a fluid and swinging bass line more usually expected from a double-bassist. Yann Pajean plays the drum kit in a straight-ahead style—solid and effective—but when he moves over to percussion he seems to lift his performance and delivers some of the sultriest, funkiest, rhythms to be heard in any jazz ensemble.

Reed player Diego Fano's playing style references cool jazz and hard bop in particular. Like Pellarin, he creates flowing, mellow lines that are highly melodic. His solo on the sexy "Corinazon" is a stylish performance that conjures up a late-night jazz club feel.

Pellarin's writing talents enable him to forge tunes that take inspiration from others yet still sound fresh and fascinating. "Accordeo do Sul" has hints of the great Argentinean bandoneonist/composer Astor Piazzolla; "Chacun son Monde," with superb percussion from Pajean and jaunty alto from Fano, has echoes of Kurt Weill; and the lovely "Song for Co" has the humanity and sparkle of Hermeto Pascoal. "Romanance" is absolutely beautiful—a duet between Pajean's chiming percussion and a rolling Bayan riff from Pellarin, it's both romantic and a little wistful.

Karenita is a delight: joyful music that immediately engages yet still has a depth and complexity that makes it worthy of repeated exploration. This is music from the heart and soul of an exceptionally talented trio.

Track Listing: Sambayana; Corinazon; Chacun son Monde; Romananche; Rodeo Latino; Union Road; Karenita; Comme par Enchantement; Song for Co; My Street Corner; Accordeo do Sul; Latin-Blues.

Personnel: Jacques Pellarin: Bayan accordion; Diego Fano: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Yann Pajean: drums, percussion; Chris Orazi: vibraphone (12); Renaud Bourquard: bass guitar (12).

Title: Karenita | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced

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